Posted by: atowhee | June 28, 2008

Good news that’s fit to print: sea otters population growing

This otters-among-the-kelp photo is from USGS.  You can click on their site to locate the true otters among the seaweed on the surface.

Latest data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the population of sea otters along the California coast is slowly growing, and the species is slowly expanding its range.  It is still not re-established north of San Francisco, nor has it returned to Oregon waters.  In the northwestern US the only extant sea otter population is along the ocean shore of Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula.

Before heavy fur harvesting and sea mammal slaughter along the Pacific Coast in the 19th Century, the sea otter would have been one of the most abundant of marine mammals along the entire coastline from Mexico up to the former Russian colony of Alaska.  The sea otter, the northern fur seal and the beaver were three species hardest hit by the commercial fur trade though nearly all sea-going mammals were heavily hunted before conservation regulations were enacted and enforced.

There are ocean-going otters around Washington State’s gorgeous San Juan Islands, but those are RIVER otters.  We have a few of those here in the Rogue Valley as well.  The sea otter is not much longer than a river otter but weighs twice as much.  The sea otter adults have pale, creamy brown faces.  The river otters are slender and have uniformly dark fur all over.   Both otters are carnivores and related to other members of the weasal family: mink, stoat, martin and wolverine.


  1. cool and cute pictures

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